Tuscany. A dream cycling vacation for people who love to ride. Conjures up images of organized rows of vineyards, fat purple grapes, golden sunshine, tall Cypress trees, and perfect roads for cycling.
In my mind, a cycling tour should be about leisurely riding, “smelling the roses” along the way, stopping for coffee and treats frequently, and burning enough calories that I can justify eating big plates of pasta, drinking wine, and eating gallons of gelato. Tuscany terrain doesn’t afford that “leisurely” feeling, however, because it offers a never-ending series of opportunities to climb or descend with not much in-between, which meets my calorie-burning goal but not my lazy-rider goal (which are paradoxical I understand).
I knew that cycling in Tuscany would be a challenge for me as a recreational intermediate rider so I prepared myself for it through coaching for two months before the tour. This turned out to be an excellent idea as I was in a caloric deficit before even arriving to Italy! Bring on the carbs!
While I have visited Italy several times it has never been for a cycling holiday. It gave me a whole new perspective on Europe. Cycling in Tuscany allowed me to visit smaller towns that I wouldn’t have toured in the past and having a structured tour with routes to follow kept me on track but still allowed me a lot of freedom in my day to day schedule. Hotels, bed and breakfasts, and agriturismos are welcoming and full of charm. Some of my favorites included Relais Fattoria Vignale in Radda, Casolare Terre Rosse in San Gimignano, and Meuble il Riccio in Montepulciano.
I love the self-guided nature of LifeCycle Adventures tours because I am annoyingly mulish about doing things on my own time and at my own pace. I am blessed with an easygoing travel companion who is deferential to my eccentricities (as long as there are many treats involved in return) so we make a great pair for cycling adventures!
Tuscany met my expectations for abundant mouth-watering plates of pasta like gnocchi, tagliatelle, and pici, my favorite. It’s a thick handrolled pasta, like a really fat spaghetti. It’s served with olive oil, parmesan, salt and pepper or other toppings. I’m a glutton for anything creamy and buttery, hence my calorie-burning bend. On that same note of creamy things, gelato was my next mission. I visited Tuscany before and had plenty of gelato but I think that there’s new gelato technology because the Gelateria en Castellina had the most killer pistachio and hazelnut gelati I have ever tasted! Now those two flavors are my barometer for good gelato. I’m typically a chocoholic but when it comes to gelato, it looks like I’m a little nutty!
Back to the riding…. The larger roads are smooth and wide with epic views of farmland, vineyards, and sunflowers, while the smaller roads were often shaded by various shades of green foliage. True to my cycling holiday dreams, there are small towns along the routes which are perfect for stopping for a cappuccino and pastry. One of my favorite moments was on the loop ride from Radda when I decided to tag on the Volpaia loop after doing the Gaiole loop. The cycling directions did say that it is a good climb up to the small village of Volpaia, and had I not just ridden the Gaiole loop I probably would have been fine, but I strained up the climb, hunkered in and pushed and pushed all the way to the top. Normally I only have a drink and a treat and skip lunch altogether but after all that effort I insisted on a long and leisurely lunch of Funghi Tagliatelle and Coca Cola at a local trattoria followed by a handmade chocolate gelato with fruit and nuts by a young man with a gelato cart. It was a glorious descent back down and I felt rejuvenated enough to complete the ride back to our hotel in Radda. Though the Tuscan towns on are hilltops, the pay-off for the climb up are exceptionally expansive views of the textured countryside.
Isn’t it the cyclist’s dream to ride, eat, sleep, repeat…? Cycling in Tuscany is one of life’s finest pleasures and should be on any cyclist’s bucket list.
Stacey is LifeCycle Adventure’s Head of Sales. She and her husband cycled in Tuscany during the fall of 2017.